Google Expeditions program connects students with virtual reality experiences

Valeria Tinajero, a second grader at Lines Elementary School in Barrington, Ill., couldn’t contain her excitement as she looked into a handheld, virtual reality device.

“I see fishes!” Tinajero said before peering again into the virtual reality viewer and seeing a clear image of a whale swimming underwater. “Whoa, cool!”

Several students at Lines Elementary seemed fascinated by the potential learning tool that representatives from the Google Expeditions program demonstrated for both students and teachers on May 26.

When Google’s Expeditions application is loaded on tablets, Lines teachers can send three-dimensional, 360-degree color images of interesting places around the world for students to see once they hold up Google’s virtual-reality cardboard viewers to their eyes.

“These are virtual reality field trips for our students,” said Katie Muhtaris, a Lines instructional coach. “They can visit and see corral reefs, go to Mars or visit major cities like Paris and London.”

After the visit with Google to learn more about its virtual reality technology, officials at Barrington School District 220 have not yet made any “firm decisions” on whether to incorporate the Google Expeditions program into classrooms, said District 220 spokeswoman Morgan Delack. The demonstration gave staffers an opportunity for them to consider whether the 3-D technology can be a viable learning tool, she said.

The decision to add to the district’s curriculum also likely would be handled by the district curriculum director.

“Something like this, Expeditions, does not need school board approval, unless it has a significant cost and then the board would approve it or not,” Delack said.

Next page: How Google’s program works in schools

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